Second Thoughts…

A little reflection brings some perspective. We’re 9 back in the loss column. It stinks right now. The Red Sox are playing terribly, the Yankees well enough to beat the Red Sox (and others) and extend their lead. The Red Sox are listless, prone to errors, undisciplined. The Yankees look like division-rival beaters. Francona looks like a serial enabler. Nomar looks like a minor-leaguer. Kevin Millar looks like J-League material. Pedro looks like a Yankee wanna-be.

Big deal.

Would I rather be up nine than down nine? No doubt. Would I rather have reasonable certainty that the Sox are going to be in the post-season than have to sit on pins and needles waiting for a wild card spot, risking utter disappointment? No question. But it’s July 1st. We won’t have a wire-to-wire division race. We won’t have massive Yankees-Red Sox drama during August and September. What we will still have is two teams and their front offices jockeying for available talent. We might have one team trying to offload their former all-star shortstop for a third starter and a farm gem. We will have August and September drama between three or four teams fighting for a vital playoff spot.

And what we still may have is an historic Yankees/Red Sox rematch in the playoffs. This isn’t resignation or concession, but pragmatism. This is simply a realization that the baseball gods no longer rely on division winners to be the champions. So we don’t win the division. If we make the playoffs, all this means is that my pre-season predictions regarding division winners were wrong. The Red Sox need to make the post-season, that’s it. If Yankees fans want to celebrate a division win, by all means they are entitled, whether it’s in July or September. But nobody should write off the Red Sox current sorry play as indication of a lack of October potential, or of inevitable Yankee victory, or of what will be. Ironically, the wild card dilutes the impressiveness of the Yankees’ performance right now. These are nice wins, satisfying I am sure for Bombers fans everywhere, but they might be as fleeting as the current losses turn out to be for the Sox.

William Rhoden, in the midst of a very good column in today’s Times drops one very brief, strong, and I think accurate, piece of criticism:

The only salvation for Yankees detractors is in the postseason, when New York will probably be undone by a team with speed and pitching. The Yankees are not kings of the entire hill, but they dominate half of it.

And you know what? Rhoden’s “only salvation” is the only one that really matters.

Chins up, RSN, nothing is decided. All we know is who is more likely to put up a meaningless banner.

4 comments… add one
  • The AL East banner is not that meaningful but it does give you two worthwhile things heading into the playoffs: home field advantage to a certain degree depending on team’s record (I obviously don’t have to remind SF of the importance of that) and setting up pitching rotation (with the division wrapped up the pitching can be set up for the playoffs; wild card races are usually closer because more teams are in the race and usually don’t allow a manager to have such a luxury).

    JCL (YF) July 1, 2004, 4:44 pm
  • Good point about the rotations. I believe that the significance of winning a division has been diluted by the Wild Card. Division winners should be rewarded moreso than they are – it’s a long slog and one extra home game in a short series doesn’t really register. In fact, if it weren’t for the perilous moves of Grady Little (not influenced by ballpark, I hate to say), then another WC winner would have been in the Series last year. The Yankees didn’t beat the Sox last year because of the rewarded-for-winning-the-division supplemental home game.
    It goes without saying that winning the division is an advantage for the reasons you state, but it’s not a defining one, and it’s far too slight, in this poster’s opinion.
    At the end of it all, the Red Sox should not be written off by people just because they may not win the division over the Yankees. The importance of this series is being overblown, by both Yankee fans and, worse, by Red Sox fans/pessimists.

    SF July 1, 2004, 5:38 pm
  • I think this site is great. i was linked through Lockhart and I thought both of your ‘open letters’ were awesome. keep up the good work!

    zey July 1, 2004, 7:37 pm
  • it’s all about october, but last time I checked, the sox were behind the yanks and also 1.5 back in the wild card race. the a’s, twins and especially the angels aren’t gonna just roll over. if big unit goes to anaheim, big trouble. heck, even tampa bay is only 5.5 out now. sox need to pick it up and start playing like the team they’re supposed to be. still early, though. what’s wrong with nomah?

    cory July 1, 2004, 9:38 pm

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